With cryptocurrency’s value exploding on the market, many hobbyists are trying to get into the game and nab some of that sweet, sweet virtual cash. Unfortunately, for most of the cryptocurrencies out there, the market is already far too saturated to support the mining operations of small-time players.
Once Bitcoin’s value jumped to a level that legitimate businessmen and corporation were forced to take notice. However, cryptocurrency is not a static entity and inherently prevents monopolization the same way traditional money allows.
Your First Choice Gaming Cards (GPUs) for Mining in 2021
We've put together a list of the best GPUs for mining cryptocurrency is general and Etherium in particular. The thing is that buying "red" (AMD) gives your better performance in ETH-mining, while buying "green" (Nvidia) is always a more flexible choice in a long run, that can switch to other algorithms and alt-coins.
PowerColor Red Devil AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT - Best Profitability for Cryptocurrency Mining
PowerColor Red Devil AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT. I found it to be a pretty good upgrade over AMD's reference design, at least in terms of cooling performance. So, today I have something that looks more serious, a bit more menacing and yeah, just a much bigger 5700 XT as you can plainly see the power color RX 5700 XT Red Devil is an absolute beast of a graphics card. Pretty much everything about this thing screams overkill. And I kind of liked that. So it is 295 millimeters long and 51 millimeters wide, and then it's 120 millimeters tall.
AMD RX 5700 XT Mining Profitability
Not a compact graphics card, this one. And then it does weigh in at a PCI-E slot bending 1.25 kilograms. And yeah, that is a joke. Make sure to fix and position it very well. It also has a triple-fan cooler from the front. We have a very chunky gray plastic fan shroud dressed in black elements and bits that sort of make it look a bit more premium than it would otherwise.
Triple-Fan Cooling with nice Additional Heatsinks
And those bits are fixed into place using some exposed screws, which also looks kind of cool. A bit of an industrial look and those three 90 millimeter fans designed for quiet operation and longevity on the rear side of the graphics card. We find a massive full-size back backplate with a backlit red devil logo.
So yeah, that looks pretty neat when it's installed inside of your rig or system. And there's more led RGB detailing on the side of the card as well, along with a pair of eight-pin PCI power connectors. That's more towards the front of the card. And that allows you to switch between power and silent mode. The default mode has a 220-watt power target. Whereas the silent mode has a 180-watt power target for testing. I just stuck with the default as it's virtually silent anyway.
Memory and VRM
Not really sure what the point of a silent mode is. Then we have the IO panel, which is a pretty standard affair here. You'll find three display ports along with a single HTML output. So that's pretty much the card externally. Let's take that massive cooler off for a look at the cooler itself and then the heat sync, not just the GPU, but also the GDDR6 memory. And the actual design of this area of the heat sink along with the femoral pads used are almost identical to what we got with the MSI. However, the biggest difference of course is the heat sink. Whereas the heat sink on the evoke weighed just 355 grams, which I felt was a little undersized. This scales at 694 grams making it 95% heavier, the base plates also 100% copper.
Potentially it's better memory cooling. There's also an extra heat pipe with five and title and just low morphine's. Then we have a better version of what we found on the MSI in terms of dimensions. It's a little longer and a little taller, but yeah. Upgrade here is the 10 phase VRM versus the seven phase version of the evoke and AMD reference cards. Power color says this allows their card to safely deliver 300 watts of power compared to the standard 221, which is interesting, but I'm not sure how useful it is given that these cards are quite heavily limited by AMD when it comes to overclocking.
This is the same huge 15 degree drop in peak operating temperature that we saw with the evoke when compared to the AMD reference card, which peaked at 84 degrees under the, the same conditions. At this temperature, the Red Devil maintenance kind of average core clock frequency of roughly 1,980 megahertz. Again, there is quite a lot of variance in clock speed with these 5700 series GPU's. But this was also about what we saw from the reference model. Now, the really impressive part are those three fans. They spun it between just 1300 and 1400 RPM making the red devil on the default mode quieter than competitors, under full load the cards is basically silent. So again, I'm not quite sure what the silent mode does, I guess, making it completely silent would be the next step as for the GDDR6 memory temp. That was only reduced by six degrees and the VRM temperature was dropped by around 10 degrees.
And then of course the GDDR6 memory doesn't respond that well to over clocking. We've got another 25 megahertz out of it, and that's pretty typical for a 5700XT. Okay, so let's move into the benchmark graphs. As usual, we testing with the core I9 1900K, which has clocked at five gigahertz and features 16 gigabytes of DDR4 3400 memory. The latest drivers available at the time of testing have been used. And for this one, we have just a few select games to look at. Okay. So first up we have Assassin's creed: Odyssey, and it's going to average around 70 FPS in this test, 72 FPS, if you push it to its limits. The hashrate on Etherium mining was around 55-57 Mh/s.
EVGA RTX 3070 XC3 Ultra - One of the Strongest Options for 2021+
EVGA RTX 3070 XC3 Ultra on the surface is pretty identical to their 3080 and their 3090 variant. The cooler on here is a direct carryover from the 3080, and that's worth talking about because cooling is extremely important when it comes to your graphics card because it controls so much of the performance. If you don't know, as the temperature increases you start dropping what's called “boost bins”. There is a GP boost 4.0 on these cards. What that means is as the temperature headroom allows and the power draw allows, it will automatically start to push the clocks higher and higher until it reaches its top bin, which will allow you to get automatic overclocking out of the box.
Boost and Heat Management
And it's one of those things where if you're running too hot then you're not going to make it up to those bins. And then it's going to start to drop those bins to bring the temperature and the power drawdown. Not only that, keeping the VRMs and the power delivery system cool as well is important because you can lose a lot of wattage to heat.
So if you're having to push more watts through the card to get the wattage to the component that's exactly where it needs it after accounting for efficiency loss through temperature. Then that means it also is going to drop boost bins because power limit just becomes a thing that's holding you back. The cooler matters and considering the fact that this cooler was built for the RTX 3080, which is a 320 to 350 watt part, depending on the model, you go with a cooler that's for almost a hundred watts extra power then this card is able to generate.
Printed Circuit Board Design
What does that mean? Plenty of temperature headroom and that definitely showed itself on the benchmarks. The other thing that sort of carries over from this design is the overall PCB (Printed Circuit Board) design. So it is a shorter PCB though, just like the RTX 3070 founder's edition card. The founder's edition card ends just past the PCI-E slot and then what you get back here is this blow through fan design. And you can see that the EVGA card does also have a bit of a flow-through design. Although much more blocked off than the founder's edition card.
It's a larger PCB than the 3070, but you don't have extension wires for the power delivery because It's actually the PCB extension up on the top. But when it comes to performance, how does it perform? Well, we put it through the exact same tests we do with the founder's edition cards. And then out of the box settings, didn't touch anything, no fan curve touching no power limit. None of that. It is exactly as it ships out of the box, stuck onto our test bench.
And it has basically the exact same numbers. It wasn't lower in anything or any of the titles that are more CPU bound. The GPU it's didn't really pull ahead, but let's keep a couple of things in mind here. One, the founder's edition card is the MSRP card. This is the one that costs around five hundred bucks. Unfortunately, supply and demand kicks in and they are being sold for more scalpers are in full effect.
It is quieter. It is cooler. And this has amazing overclocking headroom available to it. We haven't even talked about overclocking yet.
MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X - Still The Best from Past Years
The first GPU on our list is not only a gaming card--which all of the entries technically are--but a GPU that was designed to be one of the best gaming cards available on the market. In terms of gaming power, the MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X is at the top of the list.
However, this list is not about gaming power, but mining efficiency. In that light, the MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X is a bit disappointing--at least in the short-term. With a profitability of only $86 an hour, it may leave some readers wondering how we could claim it to be the most profitable?
That really depends on your time scales and rig investment. Few people begin mining cryptocurrency with a single GPU. In the instance of multiple GPUs working in unison, the MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X actually outperforms all other setups--and not by an insignificant amount.
Eventually, the MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X will pay out better, but there will be a long period where you are simply paying back the investment. Still, with a full suite of decent benchmarks and the ability to immediately be used for other applications and shine brighter than most, the MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X is a decent option.
Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ RX 580 8GB - Best AMD All Around Value for Cryptocurrency Mining
The Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ RX 580 sits in a bit of an odd position that is similar to, though definitively distinct from the 1080 TI. Whereas the 1080 TI has issues with short-term profitability and a single card does not generate much in terms of profitability, the Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ RX 580 does not suffer that at all.
In fact, the Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ RX 580 generates the most MH/s at over 26. Moreover, the Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ RX 580 sits right alongside the RX 480 in terms of profitability. When you combine that with a significantly lower price compared to the 1080 TI, it would seem that the Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ RX 580 is poised to be the best GPU for mining cryptocurrencies--period.
Thankfully, this does not impede the RX 580’s profitability, however it does not maximize simultaneous cards as well as the 1080 TI, so it becomes a bit of a wash.
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1070 8GB - Best All Around Value for Cryptocurrency Mining
Currently, the MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1070 8GB is king of the mining ring. When you combine the fact that it can process the second most number of MH/s with the relatively low power draw, you get a mining GPU that was made for profits.
However, it is also the second most expensive GPU on our list--though not nearly as expensive as the 1080 TI. As such, there will be a delayed profitability timeline like with the 1080 TI, though it will not last nearly as long. However, it should be noted that the 1070 sits between the 1080 and RX 580 in terms of “legitimate” rigs.
When you combine this with the fact that the 1070 is more on par with the RX 580 in terms of power consumption and its GDDR5X vram is not nearly as efficient when handling latency issues while mining as the RX 580’s GDDR5 vram, you end up with a GPU that is technically the best, but may not necessarily be so for every user.
Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1060 G1 Gaming - Best Budget GPU for Cryptocurrency Mining
If you are looking to stick your toe in the cryptocurrency mining game but are not yet to fully commit and dive right in, then the Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1060 G1 Gaming GPU is likely the right choice for you. First, it is easily the least expensive GPU on our list--almost 10 percent less expensive than the next lowest priced option.
However, the adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies here. Quite simply, much like the 1080, the 1060 is designed far more for gaming than it is for mining cryptocurrency. In fact, for gaming, the 1060 is likely the best all around value and offers some of the most impressive overclocking capabilities.
For mining, on the other hand, the 1060 is easily our weakest performer. First, it processes the fewest MH/s out of any other product on our list--and the difference is not small. In fact, the 1060 processes a full 25 percent fewer MH/s than the next lowest competitor.
PowerColor AMD Radeon RED DEVIL RX 480 8GB - Best Budget AMD GPU for Cryptocurrency Mining
In terms of the budget market, it seems that NVIDIA and AMD traded places from where they sat in the best all around sphere. While the PowerColor AMD Radeon RED DEVIL RX 480 8GB is a bit more expensive than the 1060, it is not so much that you should balk at the additional cost.
This is made all the more relevant when the difference in performance is more than an order of magnitude compared to the difference in cost. Ultimately, if you are looking to get a fairly inexpensive, legitimate mining rig on the cheap with solid returns, the RX 480 is a far better option than the 1060.
Unfortunately, the RX 480’s profitability is somewhat tempered by the same issue that the RX 580’s is--except more so. Specifically, the RX 480 is the most power consumptive GPU on our list. This means that while your initial investment is reasonable, you will pay more to run this rig than you will any of the others.
GPU for Mining - Buyer’s Guide
While it is often considered a matter of preference and priority in terms of a consumer’s GPU brand, the issue becomes a little less about budget and brand loyalty when mining cryptocurrencies is the goal. Here, brand means nothing when the hardware is better or worse at a singular task.
Still, there are major differences in the types of GPU makers, as each of those brands will require different BIOS firmware and different ancillary hardware to get a full rig running. Still, the options are somewhat limited as only two major GPU brands make components for the consumer markets: NVIDIA and AMD.
Between these two brands, NVIDIA is generally seen as the better performing between the two brands, while AMD often takes the prize for best bang for your buck. Of course, that rough estimation applies more towards the general use or even enthusiast gaming market.
When it comes to mining cryptocurrencies, these brands are judged less of how they can render images and more on a comparative range between profit and cost. In this regard, AMD generally takes the lead due to the way their architecture better handles latency when running an Etherium BIOS.
Still, the GPUs are a little more than a year old on market. Moreover, Etherium is still a relatively new cryptocurrency, and NVIDIA users are likely to keep working to develop BIOS firmware that functions as efficiently for NVIDIA make cards as the current Etherium BIOS does for AMD.
Even though it is right there in the name, it may come as some surprize that a graphics processing unit does in fact carry its own processor. In fact, a GPU is almost like a miniature PC setup designed for the explicit purpose of simply carrying out a single type of computation.
However, the type of computation carried out by any given GPU is largely determined by its BIOS. If you alter the GPU’s BIOS, you can easily alter what type of computations the processor carried out. However, the BIOS itself will not be able to define the maximal limit of process the GPU can carry out.
In this instance, the processes that are relevant are not defined in terms of rendering benchmarks, but mathematical computation benchmarks. For Etherium, or any other type of cryptocurrency, mining, those computations are referred to as hashes. For GPU cryptocurrency mining, this standard is generally compared in megahashes, or 1,000 hashes, per second.
However, when it comes to pure processing power, the comparison cannot rest on the hardware capabilities alone. Because a GPU includes more than simply a processor, the other components of the circuitry must be considered.
For Ethereum mining, this factor is even more pronounced because the the type of vram that AMD cards use, GDDR5, is better positioned to handle Etherium BIOS than the type of vram that NVIDIA uses, GDDR5X. This allows AMD to outperform NVIDIA in processing power for Ethereum mining in all but the highest tiers of GPU model.
Outside of processing power this is the second major limitation that will determine whether the GPU is worth your time and investment when building a mining rig. Essentially, GPUs consume a fair amount of power in the order of a dollar or so a day.
After the initial investment for the hardware itself, the next major cost of mining cryptocurrency is paying for the power that the mining rig will consume in the course of its function. As such, the least amount of power consumed, more appropriately, the most efficient power consumption--will generate the best GPU for mining cryptocurrencies.
With the advent of the current generation’s nano architecture which more or less skipped an entire generational stage of GPU development, the most recent GPUs are orders more efficient in terms of power consumption than their previous counterparts. Still, each type of GPU handles power consumption in a slightly different way do to their architecture and should not be seen as truly equal.
For example, the AMD series are generally better at computing the maximum number of hashes. However, these GPUs are also far more power consumptive than their NVIDIA counterparts. Ultimately, you will have to weigh whether the GPU can mine enough cryptocurrency to justify the amount of power it costs to run it.
Mining Profitability: Etherium, ZCash etc.
When trying to figure out if mining for a cryptocurrency is viable or not, you have to consider how much it costs to mine the currency versus how much value is returned for mining the currency. However, the cost of the hardware to mine the currency itself is only a single part of that equation.
You have to compare the amount of “money” that the processor can accumulate through computing hashes and compare it to the amount of money the GPU costs you in power simply to function. The difference is your profit.
Keep in mind, because cryptocurrencies are an investment commodity whose price is liable to go up as more and more people adopt mining it, early miners can actually end up making far more from their mining operations than late adopters.
That profit of 60 cents or so when you first started out may quickly balloon to hundreds or thousands of dollars if the cryptocurrency being mined increases exponentially in value. However, there is a bit of an upper limit for hobbyist miners. The main reason people have somewhat given up on mining Bitcoin is because large corporations, often devoted explicitly to the sole purpose of mining a given cryptocurrency, own warehouses full of mining rigs. When more hashes are being simultaneously mined, it reduces the amount of work any single GPU can accomplish.
This ultimately depresses the value of the cryptocurrency to the minier while simultaneously increasing the value for the investment market. Regardless, this means that miners who can remain agile in the cryptocurrency they mine are able to often increase the value of their operations long after it has stopped being profitable to mine directly.
In this instance, their early mining returns increase in value as corporate mining warehouses catch on to the new currency and saturate the market with mining operations, reducing the individual hash value to the point that the hobbyist is no longer making a profit when compared to the cost of running the unit.
Mining Rig Size
While this is not inherently a primary concern, it does carry with it plenty of limitation in terms of mining rigs. For example, the mining rig itself will still need to be connected to a motherboard. A motherboard will only carry a certain number of PCI-E slots.
Moreover, these slots themselves will only be able to run at a certain speed, with every slot after the first generally running at half the maximum speed of the first. Of course, none of this matter is the circuitry of the motherboard itself prevents you from connecting the GPU.
Motherboards, like all PC components, have to deal with the heat generated by running electrical current. Many of the newest and “best” motherboards for consumer purposes will come with various heat sinks and heat fins built into them. ASRock BTC 2.0 is a wise choice for today.
For consumer purposes, this is ideal. However, when the goal is to maximize hardware resources, these embedded heat dissipation components can actually obstruct a GPU’s point of connection.
However, this consideration is further muddied by the fact that not only will different brands of motherboard be configured differently, so will different GPUs. For example, ASUS makes multiple models of the AMD 400X and 500X series, but their ASUS STRIX ROG edition is significantly larger than the other models.
In fact, that specific model of the ASUS AMD GPU is so much larger that it will not only run into issues fitting onto the motherboard, it will also face hurdles fitting into various types of standard towers. That is part of the reason you will often see a mining rig horizontally oriented and using custom cases.
Trying to figure out which GPU is the “best” one is made all the more difficult by the volatile and rapidly evolving cryptocurrency mining environment. The GPU that is the best today may not be the best tomorrow as users and developers refine the BIOS firmware used for mining cryptocurrencies.
However, as it stands, the Sapphire 580X Nitro is the best all around value. With a fairly high megahash processing speed combined with a relatively efficient power consumption, it is a tough card to beat. Combine that with the lower price compared to the NVIDIA cards, and this is a much better option for hobbyists looking to jump a bit late into the game and still come out the other side with profits once you mine ZCash on 1070 and 1080ti Nvidia cards and Ehterium on AMD cards.
Of course, if you have the capital and intend to stick with mining newer cryptocurrencies for the long haul, the MSI GTX 1080 TI GAMING X will eventually overtake the Sapphire 580x Nitro in terms of profitability. However, you will need to wait a couple more years to see that return--a span of time in which the currency may inflate to the point that hobbyists will simply never recoup the investment.